The Discipline of Product Management

As a members of a discipline, product manager's work at all levels of a company in the product development process. For our purposes, we will discuss only three levels: product manager, lead product manager, and product strategy director. Of course, these might have different names and be shared among multiple people in any real installation.

Product Manager

The product manager is driven by the customer life cycle and produces a product. Any large product may have multiple product managers assigned to it, especially during Design and Plan, Development, and Testing, portions of the product life cycle. A product manager must be concerned with every aspect of the customer life cycle and every way that the customer might touch the product or the company about the product. They are primarily concerned with the customer experience in every dimension that it might take. The end result of all of this is the product itself.

Lead Product Manager

The lead product manager is responsible for a product throughout its entire life cycle. Every product will have a product manager assigned to it from inception to decommissioning, guiding the product from birth through death. This guidance is called a "product roadmap" and is the detailed plan for the product lifecycle. The lead product manager manages a cross functional team of people who are responsible for the development and operation of the product. This team may grow and diminish during different phases of the product life cycle, but generally includes.

  • Software developers

  • Project managers

  • Product operations engineers

  • Software quality assurance engineers

  • User interface design engineers

  • Marketers

  • Graphic artists

  • Customer support

  • The lead product manager does not necessarily function as the operational manager for these people, but leads, coordinates, and supervises their work toward the end goal of making the product a reality, launching it, operating it, and managing it throughout its life cycle.

    The product managers who manage the customer life cycle report to the lead product manager during times that they are assigned to the team. In many cases, the product manager will have P&L responsibility for the product and thus manage everything about the product including sales, marketing, and advertising.

    Product Strategy Director

    The product strategy director is a member of the executive management team and is responsible for creating a portfolio of products that are aligned with the business strategy of the company. A small company might have a small product portfolio. A large company might have multiple portfolios organized along lines of business.

    A product strategy director has the following responsibilities.

  • Define and plan product lines and product enhancements

  • Management of product contracts and sales

  • Strategic direction based on customer needs and business goals

  • Interpret strategic goals into operational tasks

  • Make proposals to senior management regarding implications of proposed plans

  • Serves as representative to internal and external clients

  • Manages external vendors and deliverables

  • Takes lead in establishing tactical plans and objectives

  • Develops and implements administrative and operational matters ensuring achievement of objectives

  • Establishes business plan and operational goals

  • Evaluates risks and trade-offs; proposes contingency plans

  • The product strategy director is accountable in the following areas.

    Accountable for overall product direction.

    Make key decisions based on risk management and trade-off assessments.

  • Accountable for overall product direction

  • Make key decisions based on risk management and trade-off assessments

  • Act as product evangelist

  • Manage product budget

  • Anticipate and develop strategies and tactics to meet client business needs

  • Provide business leadership to members of team including developers, contractors, and others

  • The product strategy director is gives leadership in the following ways.

  • Provide tactical leadership and general direction to managers and team members

  • Regularly interact with executive management

  • Provide tactical leadership and general direction to managers and team members

  • Handle controversial and sensitive situations with diplomacy

  • Negotiate with clients and customers as well as executives and other directors

  • Provide supervisory guidance and mentoring to more junior product managers

  • TQM is the way of managing for the future, and is far wider in its application than just assuring product or service quality - it is a way of managing people and business processes to ensure complete customer satisfaction at every stage, internally and externally. TQM, combined with effective leadership, results in an organization doing the right things right, first time. The core of TQM is the customer-supplier interfaces, both externally and internally, and at each interface lie a number of processes. This core must be surrounded by commitment to quality, communication of the quality message, and recognition of the need to change the culture of the organization to create total quality. These are the foundations of TQM, and they are supported by the key management functions of people, processes and systems in the organization. This section discusses each of these elements that, together, can make a total quality organization. Other sections explain people, processes and systems in greater detail, all having the essential themes of commitment, culture and communication running through them.

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